New scams continue to pop up every day — and scammers will try every angle, including things relating to your home. The Better Business Bureau’s online Scam Tracker lists more than 44,000 scams reported in the U.S. this year alone (as of Nov. 14, 2018). So what are some of the latest scams to look out for, and how can you avoid them? Here are three home scams to know so that you can stay informed and avoid getting taken advantage of by thieves:
Utility Phone Scams
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently warned consumers about a trending phone scam where someone calls to try to get you to give them money under the guise that you have an overdue utility payment, and your services will be shut off if you don’t immediately pay them over the phone. This can instill fear and worry in even the most diligent bill payers — especially if you know that you’ve paid your bill or have your bills set on autopay. Our simple advice? Just hang up.
Red Flags To Watch For: These phone scammers are usually vague, with details like “I’m calling from the shutoff department” or “I’m calling from the final collections division” without being clear about which company they’re with. Also, if someone is asking for payment methods like gift cards, wire transfers, or even bitcoin, it should be an immediate red flag.
Remote Desktop Scams
The FBI recently released a public service announcement to warn consumers and small businesses about a scam that entails people posing as IT support personnel trying to “help” you with a computer or virus issue. These scammers will request remote access to your computer or laptop, which would allow them to control the resources and data of a computer from another location via the internet. Remote access allows an external user complete control over a remote machine, so be very careful who you grant it to (if anyone). Also know that once someone gains remote access, it’s difficult to even detect whether they are continually connecting to your computer. You’re probably familiar with remote access if you’ve ever had someone from your company’s IT department help you with an issue with working remote or using your device by traveling.
Red Flags To Watch For: Use caution when providing remote access to your computer. If you’re a small business owner or company employee, you should only use the authorized technical support for your company via the phone number that they provide you.
Home Improvement Scams & Disaster Recovery Scams
After a major storm like a hurricane, blizzard, or flood, there are unfortunately shady contractors who prey on those dealing with the aftermath. There are also contractors in every market throughout the year that could be trying to scam you. Make sure you use trusted referrals, speak with past clients, check online reviews, and read tips and tricks to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate contractor. It’s also a good idea to speak with multiple contractors and get at least three bids in writing on any major projects, so that you can compare prices and materials estimates. Also check to confirm that your contractor is licensed and insured and look into their background by checking sites like the BBB. No matter what, take your time to do your homework and don’t feel pressured to work with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or like the business relationship is only on their terms.
Red Flags To Watch For: If anyone asks for 100% payment upfront, you should be weary. It’s common to pay for a portion of work up front to cover materials costs, but if you’re expected to pay in full before having work done, you might want to consider another contractor. Contracting job scammers often go door-to-door, so also be weary of anyone who stops by your house.
Any time you get a call requesting money or immediate action on your part, it’s always okay to hang up and contact the main number for the company or visit the main website of the company the caller said they represented. Want to learn more about how to avoid scams? Click here to read more from Mr. Cooper on identity protection.